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The best World Cup goals – The Washington Post

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Argentina’s Lionel Messi and France’s Kylian Mbappé will meet Sunday with a World Cup trophy on the line. They’ll also be playing for the Golden Boot: The Paris Saint-Germain teammates are tied atop the tournament’s scoring race with five goals each.

That the World Cup’s top scorers will face off on its biggest stage feels fitting for a tournament that has delivered for fans of highlight-reel goals. Across the 62 matches played in Qatar, 163 goals have been scored, an average of 2.63 per game.

That total is the fourth most all-time, while the average is slightly below Russia 2018 (2.64) and Brazil 2014 (2.67). With two matches to play — Sunday’s final plus Saturday’s third-place game between Morocco and Croatia — there’s a chance for this tournament to reach the all-time high of 171, set in 1998 and matched in 2014.

From wonder strikes to headers from the highest heights, here are seven goals (in the order they happened) that are sure to be remembered from the 2022 World Cup.

France eliminates Morocco, and a dream World Cup final beckons

Salem al-Dawsari, Saudi Arabia vs. Argentina (group stage)

One of the World Cup’s most stunning goals came on the second full day of games. Saudi Arabia was an underdog in Group C, and a draw against heavyweight Argentina in its opening game Nov. 22 would have been a significant result. But Dawsari vaulted the Green Falcons into history with his go-ahead goal in the 53rd minute. He escaped pressure from three defenders and darted inside on his right foot, then created enough space to fire a brilliant shot that curled into the net and gave Saudi Arabia the lead. He followed it with his trademark cartwheel and backflip celebration.

With his goal, Dawsari, 31, long one of the top players in Asian soccer, etched his name into World Cup lore.

Richarlison, Brazil vs. Serbia (group stage)

FIFA’s official “Goal of the Tournament” is decided by a fan poll after the World Cup, but because this one happened Nov. 24, it has run away with the popular vote. In the 73rd minute, Vinícius Júnior sent a good cross into the box, and Richarlison’s finish was even better. The ball nearly fell out of his line of sight, but he caught it in perfect time for a stunning right-footed overhead kick.

It wasn’t a fluke, either. Video after the fact showed Richarlison practicing a similar finish in Brazil’s training sessions. The Tottenham star added another sublime goal with his finish against South Korea in the knockout round. Their team’s run ended earlier than expected, but Brazil’s fans won’t forget Richarlison’s standout performance anytime soon.

Vincent Aboubakar, Cameroon vs. Serbia (group stage)

This goal may not score as high in beauty points compared with others on this list, but it gets a bonus for its cheekiness. In the 63rd minute with his team trailing 3-1, Aboubakar left Serbian defender Nemanja Maksimovic in the dust and then sent a lob over the head of keeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic. The ball took another bounce just off the line before it somewhat miraculously landed in the net. After a quick video assistant referee check, the goal stood, and the Indomitable Lions roared back to secure a 3-3 draw.

The Cameroonian captain can’t be mentioned without acknowledging his goal against Brazil. He scored in second-half stoppage time to give his side the lead, then promptly got sent off for an excessive-celebration yellow card.

Luis Chávez, Mexico vs. Saudi Arabia (group stage)

If there was an award for the best goal from a dead ball, it could go to this free-kick strike. Chávez’s ball sailed over the heads of his teammates and the Saudi defenders and into the net. It gave Mexico hope as the final spots of Group C came down to the wire Nov. 30 and earned Chávez, a 26-year-old midfielder at Pachuca in Liga MX, a place on the list of best free-kick goals, possibly ever.

Per FIFA’s advanced stats, the ball traveled 95.8 feet to the goal — the distance measured as a straight line, not in the air — with a maximum speed of 121.7 mph. It was the hardest-hit goal of the group stage.

Kylian Mbappé, France vs. Poland (round of 16)

France had comfortably secured its quarterfinal spot by the final minutes against Poland on Dec. 4, but that didn’t stop Mbappé from giving the world one more masterpiece. He had scored earlier in the match to put France up 2-0, but his stoppage-time strike was the highlight of the day. Mbappé got a smart pass from Marcus Thuram, peeled away from a Polish defender and two touches later curled the ball into the top corner of the goal.

All five of Mbappé’s goals at this World Cup have come from open play. He and teammate Olivier Giroud lead all players with a non-penalty expected goals figure of 3.4. Still only 23, he’s just getting started.

Youssef en-Nesyri, Morocco vs. Portugal (quarterfinal)

En-Nesyri’s 42nd-minute header helped Morocco reach new heights in more ways than one. The Atlas Lions earned a place in a World Cup semifinal, a first for any African or Arab nation, and the 6-foot-2 en-Nesyri entered the record books. The Sevilla striker got a look on a cross in the box and capitalized on a moment of hesitation by Portuguese keeper Diogo Costa to leap a reported 9.1 feet and hammer the ball into the net.

That measure is in company with the heights reached by Cristiano Ronaldo, a player known for his heading prowess. Even Ronaldo himself, watching from the bench, was in awe of how en-Nesyri defied physics on the biggest stage.

Julián Álvarez, Argentina vs. Croatia (semifinal)

Argentina’s World Cup hasn’t been short on fantastic goals. It’s hard to pick just one that stands out: Enzo Fernández’s brilliant strike from outside the box after a short corner against Mexico was one of the best goals of the group stage, and Messi’s score in that game showed the maestro at his best.

That said, Álvarez’s second goal in the semifinal against Croatia sums up Argentina’s run: a moment of brilliance from an all-time great paired with a teammate willing to do anything to keep Messi’s dream alive. Messi beat Croatia defender Josko Gvardiol on the turn and found Álvarez at the corner of the six-yard box to put it away. It’s a highlight goal that was as much about what came before — Messi’s run and the years Álvarez and other young Argentina players have spent idolizing him — as the finish itself.

The World Cup that left human rights behind

Marcus Rashford’s free-kick goal for England against Wales in the group stage. A year removed from his penalty miss in the Euro 2020 final, the 25-year-old Manchester United star played his free kick perfectly, converting for one of his three goals — tied with Bukayo Saka for England’s most — in Qatar.

Gonçalo Ramos’s opener for Portugal against Switzerland in the round of 16. Seventeen minutes into his first start ever, Ramos proved he was the right replacement for the benched Ronaldo with a rocket past the Swiss keeper. The Benfica forward is the only player with a hat trick in Qatar.

Neymar’s stunner from a tricky angle for Brazil against Croatia in the quarterfinals. The Brazilian star wove his way through the Croatian defense in extra time for a goal that tied him with Pelé as his country’s all-time leading scorer.

Wout Weghorst’s equalizer for the Netherlands against Argentina in the quarterfinals. He delivered a dagger in the 11th minute of stoppage time to force extra time. The straight-off-the-training-ground play echoed a set piece mastered at the 1998 World Cup by — surprise — Argentina.

World Cup in Qatar

The latest: France will face Argentina in the World Cup final after eliminating Morocco, 2-0, in a semifinal Wednesday in Khor, Qatar. Les Bleus will face Lionel Messi and Argentina on Sunday at 10 a.m. Eastern for the world championship. Morocco will play Croatia in the third-place game Saturday.

Messi’s likely last World Cup: For Lionel Messi, the World Cup presents a final chance to step out from Maradona’s shadow. For Argentines, a respite from unrelenting bad news.

Today’s WorldView: In the minds of many critics, especially in the West, Qatar’s World Cup will always be a tournament shrouded in controversy. But Qatar’s foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, wants people to take another view.

Perspective: “America is not a men’s soccer laughingstock right now. It’s onto something, and it’s more attuned to what’s working for the rest of the world rather than stubbornly forcing an American sports culture — without the benefit of best-of-the-best talent — into international competition.” Read Jerry Brewer on the U.S. men’s national team’s future.


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